This week, I want to discuss how to accept personal responsibility for your life and why it’s crucial that you do so.
What Do I Mean By Personal Responsibility?
To be responsible for one’s life takes two meanings. The first is rather basic – you take care of yourself. You pay your own bills, cook your own meals, and function as an adult. Most people can easily meet this basic requirement.
However, the second concept of personal responsibility is attached to the idea of extreme ownership. The way your life is, whether good or bad, is primarily your creation. It doesn’t matter if you’ve fallen on hard times or are experiencing heaven on Earth, you create the positives and negatives of your life.
Why Is It Hard To Accept Personal Responsibility?
As individuals, we want to believe that factors outside of our control cause our life’s problems. We do not want to accept that we are the creators of our past, present, and future. Thus, we are the bearers of the consequences our actions produce.
This inability and unwillingness to achieve personal responsibility shows itself in deterministic attitudes. How often have we heard (or said) things such as, “I can’t get ahead because of my race” or “X group is stealing all the jobs” or “I can’t lose weight because of society.” In all these complaints there is a glaring lack of personal responsibility preventing the complainer from having to make any fundamental changes within themselves.
Maybe it is not your race but your attitude that prevents personal progress. Maybe it would be wise to learn new skills in order to expand one’s influence on the job market. Maybe you should learn self-control and better eating habits instead of blaming the media for your current weight.
However, it’s hard to accept our problems stem from our own actions (and inactions). Many people know that they are not living their best lives. It hurts to know we are the cause for the mediocrity our lives currently stew in. To emotionally process such pain, we blame other people and external circumstances as causing our life’s problems.
The Dangers of Avoiding Personal Responsibility
When you deny your role in creating the life you have, you lose control over your narrative. When you accept the falsehood others control your life, then you lose the power to control your destiny. Without any power over your life, you will drift from place to place wallowing in bitterness and contempt as people use you because you let them. When you believe you have no control over yourself, other people will gladly exercise power for you by making you buy what they want you to buy, support the movements they want you to support, and hate the people they want you to hate.
Let takes a typical example: you can’t find a job because group A has “taken all the jobs.” If you accept this narrative, then this story will influence your entire life. You will become hostile to group A, blame group A for your economic situation, and believe all faults lie with them. Because you truly think all fault lies with group A, you will surrender responsibility for your life and refuse to work on improving your attitude, gaining new skills, or increasing your virtue. This inertia will lead to your stagnation.
With your stagnation in place, you will need to continue to seek “evidence” that supports your narrative. Thus, you are likely to find others who hold the same viewpoint. Your community will be based on the hostility towards group A and not on virtue. Therefore, you’ll continue to support each other’s bitterness and stagnation. From here, a political movement will grow which further festers and ensures hostility between different groups. Once you’re invested in a political campaign, you become yet another pawn of the power-hungry.
Never Create Hostile, Destructive Narratives
When we refuse to accept responsibility for ourselves, we create narratives that require hostile and brutal resolutions. All unreality positions need violence to conclude because reality refuses to bend to our will. We bully other people until they submit to our craziness and we count this as a victory.
For example, we can utilize political power to ban group A from the marketplace. Now we have the jobs we want at the expense of countless innocent lives destroyed. This option requires nothing of us individually (the government does all action at the behest of the screaming collective) which is why most people pursue this short-sighted and lazy path.
However, by improving one’s attitude, gaining new skills, and increasing virtue, you can expand your job opportunities and avoid blaming innocent people. These options require personal responsibility as well as personal effort. However, the benefit is improving one’s life sustainably and positively.
To take more responsibility in your personal life, you’ll need the virtues of courage, persistence, and fortitude. These three virtues provide the bedrock you need to create a better mindset that will empower you to control your life and plan your future.
Have Courage To Accept The Consequences of Your Actions
If you treat people poorly, they will cease associating with you. If you chose to be lazy, you’ll struggle to adapt to changing job markets. If you eat junk food, you will gain weight as your health deteriorates. In each instance, you are at fault, and it’s important to accept that.
However, accepting your fault in creating your life’s difficulties can be emotionally challenging. In each situation, there is a negative action that results in a negative outcome. Each action has a fairly obvious consequence; e.g., everyone knows that being a jerk to people will lead to social isolation. However, we pursue these paths anyway.
This is hard to accept. Individuals make poor decisions in the moment to appease some impulse. Giving in to our impulses creates destructive consequences any sane person would avoid. For example, if our brains weren’t continually sending us an urge to eat sweets, most people would avoid junk food because we all know that junk food has adverse effects on one’s health.
Thus, we need to accept that we failed to control our impulses and this failure led to adverse outcomes. Accepting our poor behavior and the reality that our poor behavior is entirely under our control takes an immense amount of courage. However, by accepting personal responsibility for our wrong decisions, we can make adjustments that will lead to better outcomes.
How To Have Courage In The Face of Fear
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” ― John A. Shedd
When we refuse to accept our failures, we give in to fear. This creates discomfort as we begin to hate our own inner dishonesty. Our internal dishonesty manifests as lashing out. For example, if someone accuses you of poor decision making for getting back together with an ex, you may lash out by saying “you don’t understand” or “it’ll be different this time.” Of course, in a previous, more clear-thinking state, you broke up with your ex for a reason. Now you’re making the same mistake again, you know that you are, and thus you lash out in fear.
Building courage requires a deep respect for yourself. To start, identify what you fear. If you keep getting back together with your ex, understand you may fear loneliness. Engaging with this fear and the root cause of it (maybe you were left alone too often as a child) will help you develop courage. Fear forms from the unknown and once you have a better grasp of the unknown it loses power over you.
Next, develop the small victories and the ways by which you can earn pride in your actions. Learning a new skill, overcoming a small addiction, and helping others will build your confidence. This confidence will be sustainable and will spill into other areas of your life.
To Develop Courage, You Need A Plan For Your Life
Lastly, develop a plan for change. If you keep getting back together with your ex, then sit down and figure out ways to resolve this issue. Maybe you’ll start by cutting ties with your ex, finding a therapist, and developing a new hobby. There’s no clear-cut way to resolve each issue, but creating a plan of action will build your courage. Why? Because you have a future and can move forward on solid ground.
After seeking self-knowledge and creating a plan, you can start directly tackling the issue. Acknowledging your responsibility for past mistakes is never easy but requires courage if you want to change course. Accept when errors have been made then be honest when pursuing change. Never give in to fear and lash out when people or reality try to set you on the most virtuous path.
Persistence Pushes You To A Better Tomorrow
When we accept responsibility for our lives, we also recognize the weight that comes with responsibility. If everything in your life is your fault, then the smallest error can seem like a massive failure. However, it’s also a significant opportunity for growth, reflection, and development.
The problem is you’ll never have the chance to make mistakes or improve if you stand still. You may have the courage to say, “It’s my fault I can’t find a better job.” But if you sit around doing nothing, then you’ll stew in pity and self-hatred.
Responsibility requires action to maintain. Are you a little overweight and bothered by this? Then you have to act in a way that allows you to lose weight and achieve the body that you want. Are you worried about your job or the current job market? Then you have to recognize that it is your responsibility to expand your opportunities and act accordingly.
Failure to act will sap you of your strength and courage. Doubt is removed by action, and the only way to maintain your courage is to push forward. Create and develop the goals that will help you overcome the problem you see before you. By creating goals to resolve an issue, you create the tools you need to actively take responsibility for your life and change everything for the better. Without a firm set of goals, your actions will never amount to anything, and your new found life of responsibility will remain undefined.
So persist and go forward so that you can wield power over your life.
Fortitude Protects You From Doubt
Fortitude is moral and virtuous certainty in the face of doubts and challenges. When making the radical decision to accept responsibility for your life, you will be besieged from internal and external critics.
For a multitude of reasons, people will want you to give up your crusade to be more responsible. They may see your change as a subtle attack on their own inactions, or they may need to continue to manipulate you and resent seeing you becoming free of their control. Whatever the case, you will be attacked by others when you seek to be responsible for yourself.
Outside attacks are relatively easy to ignore and overcome. Developing a thicker skin involves acting virtuously so that you never lose confidence in what you’re doing. Additionally, it’s always helpful to ignore people who continuously attack you for trying to improve yourself. There are multiple people in my family who I don’t talk to. All they offer me is critiques and negativity for thriving and seeking a better life for my family and myself.
If you tell your racial community your life’s poor results are the result of your poor choices, then they will call you a betrayer and a sellout. If you tell your local community you need to learn more to expand your economic value, instead of blaming others for your poor business performance, then they will criticize you. If you tell your friends and family you’re going to change your diet and exercise more, they will call your plans farfetched and misguided.
The True Enemy Is The Self
However, the true enemy is yourself. Doubt is most impactful and harmful when it comes from your own inner voice. Thus, you need to develop ways to protect yourself from your inner-critic. Here are a few ways to fight back against the inner-critic:
- Accept nothing but greatness – No matter what you’re doing, always give it your all. Are you washing dishes? Make sure they’re spotless. Are you learning a new skill? Master it as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. Are you having a conversation? Make sure your conversation partner loves every second of it. When we refuse to accept “good enough” in most aspects of our life, then it becomes increasingly harder for our inner-critic to find anything to attack.
- Keep track of your actions – Journaling, get-to-do lists, and daily tracking are all key to ensuring you know what you’re doing with your time. When you keep track of your activities, you can make improvements in your daily life. Being able to make accurate, meaningful improvements helps to quiet your inner-voice and ensures your long-term success.
- Celebrate victories – Have you overcome a bad habit or finished a massive project? Then celebrate. Take a break and enjoy your life. When we develop pride in our accomplishments and celebrate when we win, our inner-critic has less to fuss about. However, never lie to yourself. Only take a break when you’ve done something remarkable.
By developing these habits, you can strengthen your fortitude when your inner-critic starts babbling. Increasing your endurance is crucial because you need to stay the course when you take responsibility for your life.
Accept Personal Responsibility For Your Life
I want to end by saying nothing I outlined above is easy. There is nothing natural about waking up every day and choosing to be an active participant in your life. It’s easier to blame all your problems on the world and people you don’t know or on circumstances and institutions. However, unless you take responsibility for yourself you will never be happy, and your life will drift into nothingness before you finally pass.
Your life is the product of your actions. Your life is not the product of your parents, of your race, of your class, of your gender, of nothing else but your passion and efforts. No one is coming to save you. The government will not make you a virtuous person; complaining will not make you a master of any skill; excuse-making will not strengthen your body, mind, or soul.
If you want to live your best life, you have to possess the courage to take personal responsibility for who you are and what you do. From here, you need to persist towards accomplishing the goals you set for yourself. Lastly, by developing fortitude, you can remove inner doubt and march on without fail.
- Do you lack courage? Does the idea of changing yourself for the better create anxiety? Why do you think that is?
- What is the ideal version of yourself? Are you strong enough to reach this version of yourself?
- Do the words of others mean more to you than your opinion of yourself? Why?
- What is/are your life goal(s)? Why do you have these/this goal(s)?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.